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Betting On Us

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Betting is not encouraged at Jupiter High but that doesn’t stop half the students from forming a pool.

“They hate each other,” Katie asserts, rolling her eyes at the Stolls’ nonsense.

“Or, and hear me out,” Travis holds up his hands, “they’re actually flirting with each other.”

“Who flirts by being mean? That’s ridiculous.”

Travis, looking taken aback by her outburst, rubs the back of his neck meekly. “Some people do…”

Katie rolls her eyes again and turns back to the math homework incidentally assigned by the subject of conversation.

Ms. Chase was one of the hardest teachers at the school, but damned if everyone that entered didn’t walk out with a comprehensive understanding of mathematics.

Silena Beauregard, a senior, who had hated every moment of the class the year before, now sang praises of Ms. Chase and just how easy Calc was now. The girl had even decided to get a math minor.

Katie’s not quite at that level yet, but there’s no time to dwell on it as the bell rings.  

“I’m telling ya, you should get in on this,” Connor says. “Will bet twenty that they don’t actually hate each other but aren’t flirting either.”

“What kind of bet is that?”

Connor shrugs. “Don’t know, but it’s easy money.”

Shaking her head, she looks around in search of the other Stoll. Travis is lagging behind, suspiciously quiet, which usually means he’s planning some obnoxious prank on her.

“Travis, hurry up, we’re going to be late,” she urges against her better judgement.

Surprisingly though, he complies, and they make it to history with time to spare.

Mr. Jackson is the kind of teacher that encourages dressing up for a mock historical debate. But his energy is a bit contagious and makes the topics bearable.

He’s got a wide smile on his face today as he starts writing on the board, just as the second bell rings.

“Today,” he turns to address the class. “We’re going to be covering—“

A knock on the door interrupts him and everyone turns their attention to the front of the class.

Despite not getting along, the two teachers often interact with each other. Because standing at the door is none other than Ms. Chase.

“Sorry to interrupt,” she begins in a tone that doesn’t sound like she’s that sorry. “But Ka—”

She interrupts herself as her eyes land on the green letters on the board. “Are you talking about Hamilton? The musical?”

Mr. Jackson, keeping a very neutral face, responds, “Yes. There’s a lot to be learned from it.”

“Are you sure it’s not an excuse to just listen to a musical?”

The conversation is wholly civil with no undercurrent of anything in particular, but the whole class is watching in raptured silence.

“What brings you here Ms. Chase?” Mr. Jackson asks instead of replying.

“Katie.” Ms. Chase turns to the class. “You forgot your homework on the lunch table, I saw it when I was walking by.”

She takes two steps into the classroom as Katie, ears burning red, hastens to meet her. “And given that it’s for my class, I thought I’d return it,” Ms. Chase continues.

Katie mumbles a thank you as she accepts the paper, and hurries back to her seat, not wanting more eyes on her.

“How nice of you, Ms. Chase.” Mr. Jackson says. It’s a complete sentence but it feels like there’s things left unsaid as she turns back to look at him with a raised eyebrow.

“I’ll let you get on with your class,” is all she says before stepping back out of the room. Mr. Jackson turns back to the board as Connor whispers to Travis.

“Dude, did you see? He was totally looking at her when she handed Katie her homework.”

Katie rolls her eyes. Of course, this bet business comes up again.

“But did you hear they way they were talking to each other,” Miranda whispers from behind her, evidently hearing the conversation. “They hate each other.”

Before Katie can shush all of them, Mr. Jackson turns back to the class.

“Anything I’m missing over there?”

Stifling a groan, she shakes her head.  “Actually, Mr. Jackson,” Connor speaks up, immediately overriding her answer.

“We were wondering if you’ve ever seen Hamilton?”

Thankfully, Mr. Jackson is also the kind of teacher to cut some slack, because he responds.

“Yeah, we saw it last year and it’s an incredible stage performance.”

“We?” Connor asks again, in an all too innocent voice.

Any other teacher and he would have been reprimanded but Mr. Jackson looks too caught off guard by the question to even say anything.

“Yes…me and my…girlfriend.”

She will never forget the moment that the whole class collectively lost their shit.

A silent shift, but the bulged eyes say everything, and even Mr. Jackson looks uneasy at the way they are staring at him.

“Right, so let’s get back on track. Hamilton…”

And despite her best intentions to try to pay attention to what he’s saying, the note passing between the Stolls get the better of her as the betting pool started to crumble.

-.-

“Maybe she doesn’t know he has a girlfriend and that’s why she’s flirting?”

Travis nods thoughtfully. “But then why would he flirt back?”

“Guys, lets face it, they don’t like each other.” And with that she turns back to her locker, her final words on the matter.

“Don’t know about that Katie Kat,” Travis says, still contemplating how to interpret this news. He’s not the only one, the entire class burst into conversation as soon as the bell had rang and PE next period made it all too easy to continue talking.

“I agree,” Connor adds with a smirk. “You’re pretty bad at figuring out when people like each other.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She turns angrily towards Connor, only to find him cackling. Travis remains, once again, suspiciously quiet. And once again, before she can think further on what that means, the bell rings.

Walking into math has never been so…charged before today. The entire class is buzzing when Ms. Chase claps for attention.

“Alright class, we’re going to pick up where we left off on—”

But it’s difficult for anyone to pay attention and even Ms. Chase stops in the middle of a formula to address the obvious tension.

“What’s going on with you all today?”

Suddenly the whole class is silent. Her sharp grey eyes scan the class before landing on Travis and Connor.

“Well boys, you always know what’s going on.” She waits for an answer.

“Well,” Travis starts (after a lot of nudging from Connor). “We found out that Mr. Jackson has a girlfriend.”

The surprise is evident on her face. It’s rare to see Ms. Chase look taken aback, but she composes herself quickly enough.

“Good for him, why does that matter to all of you? A teacher’s personal life is allowed to be private.”

One day Connor will stop himself from speaking without a filter. Today is, clearly, not that day.

“Have you met her?”

Ms. Chase is exactly the kind of teacher that would never let anything like this stand but by some miracle of the gods, she’s not only taken back for a second time, it’s enough for her to not actually reprimand him.

“I..uh..yes, I have, not that it should matter to you.” Her composure, however, is lost on the entire class that, for the second time in that day, collectively loses their shit.

“Quiet!” Ms. Chase is still commanding enough to get everyone to shut up though.

“What’s she like?” Some girl in the back asks.

“She’s fine, now that’s not the point of—”

A loud knock at the open door has everyone’s attention.

And of course, of all the teachers, Mr. Jackson is standing there with his arms crossed.

“She’s great actually,” he says loudly.

For the first time, Ms. Chase actually rolls her eyes at the words.

“It doesn’t matter, that should not be a topic of discussion.”

Mr. Jackson nods. “You’re right. But for the record, she’s great.”  And with that he’s walking away again.

Ms. Chase actually rubs her face, letting out a huge sigh. She mutters something that Katie can’t make out.

“Okay, that’s enough, we’re getting through this formula now.”

She doesn’t know how they get through the class.

-.-

“Maybe—”

Katie cuts him off before he can say another word.

“Connor, please do not deposit another theory, I’ve heard like fifteen today.”

“Can you blame me? This is big news!”

She can’t, honestly. Despite her best efforts, she can’t stop thinking about it either. “No, I don’t blame you. I just can’t right now. Plus, I have a theory of my own I need to test.”

She shuts her locker and turns to her right. “Travis? Can I talk to you for a second?”

School’s out and most of the students have left, she’s only staying behind for Art Club and Travis and Connor usually chill with her for a bit before driving off. It’s been a long day, but she thinks she’s figured out at least one thing from all this chaos.

Connor immediately peaces out, walking down the hall as Travis looks nervously at her.

“What’s up?”

“Is there anything you want to tell me?”

She can see a hint of red flushing is face. “I don’t—”

“I’m SO sorry to interrupt but you guys NEED to see this NOW!” Connor’s whisper yelling and beckoning them towards a classroom door.

Without even looking at her Travis immediately jogs to his brother, Katie following behind, shaking her head.

The door is only open a little bit, but it’s enough to hear what’s going on.

“I can’t let you shit talk my girlfriend!” Mr. Jackson’s voice is clearly recognizable.

“I didn’t shit talk and it was so not the time to bring that up.” Ms. Chase’s clear voice is also obvious.

“Okay maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but I can’t let anyone say something bad about MY girlfriend.”

“I didn’t even say anything bad!”

“You said fine, FINE. Are you kidding me? That’s—”

“I think I should be allowed to say whatever I want.”

Katie looks over at Travis and Connor, both of whom are staring with wide eyes at the whole exchange. There’s no way she just said that.

“No.” Mr. Jackson’s voice sounds like a pout.

Ms. Chase sighs. “You’re so stubborn.”

“I have to be to date a goddess.”

There’s a small chuckle at the words. “You’re actually ridiculous.” Ms. Chase sounds unbelievably fond.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “But you still love me so I’m not gonna change.”

They can hear the smile in her voice when she responds. “I would never change you.”

“Even when I disrupt your class?”

There’s a beat of silence. “You’re lucky I love you.”

There’s another chuckle followed by more silence and Connor nods back in the direction of the hallway. They immediately run all the way down to her locker.

“NO FREAKING WAY!” Connor is leaning against the lockers as Katie automatically starts opening hers even though there’s nothing she needs to get from there.

“You can’t tell anyone.”

Connor looks at her. “What? Are you crazy?”

“Look, they clearly want to keep it private. We shouldn’t spill.”

Connor makes a face. “I mean it, Connor.”

“Ugh! Fine!” He turns towards Travis. “If you weren’t my brother, I would have kicked you for choosing someone with morals.”

And with that, he walks towards the doors.

It’s the last bit of confirmation she needs. She turns back to Travis who’s still nervously teetering close to her.

“So? Figure out if there’s anything you want to ask me yet?”

Travis makes a face. “You’re making fun of me!”

Smiling, she steps closer to him. “No, I’m not. I’m not mean to people I like.”

The sparkle in his eyes at her words makes her heart soar and she think she gets why Ms. Chase puts up with Mr. Jackson. It’s easy when the other person makes your heart flutter like that.